Mapping provides a unique way to create new ways of imagining the world and perhaps new ways of living within it. Such is the power of one of the canonical representational practices. These image is an example of mapping done by the design denizens of www.style.org. Here, the January 2005 Iraqi election (not the more recent referendum) is visually compelling for all the usual reasons, not the least of which is the ability to interactively create your own modified representation. I’m particularly interested in the possibilities that web-based mapping (e.g. Google Mapping Mash-ups) tools and practices may lead to more self-visualizations. By that I mean representations of the world using one of the most iconic visualization practices — map making. This may be the legacy of Google Maps, if I can be so bold as to be optimistic for a moment. If the open Google Map API provides a straightforward way for networked publics to create new social formations through visual representations, that is a powerful new practice. Sure, things like HousingMaps.com are cool, but imagine if local communities were able to map landlord violations? And instead of FastFood maps (blech..), healthy living maps? Many of the existing Google Maps mash-ups are so..borgeoise. Google Maps Mania keeps an unofficial list of existing Google Maps mash-ups.
Mimi Ito organized a series of panels at this year’s 4S conference (Society for the Social Studies of Science), held in Pasadena. I proposed a paper on Locative Media that I had titled Landscape as Interface: How Creative Uses of the Global Positioning System Enable Location Aware Media. I didn’t have much of an idea as to what that would become, other than I was thinking that this would be continuous with my research vectors on locative media. When I prepared the talk, I decided that this would be a good way to spin-up my thinking on dislocation â€” ways in which various forms of (mostly electronic) communications/networking social infrastructures make tectonic, geographical alterations on the landscape.
I’m still figuring where this goes. My preliminary thinking is going on my research wiki. I’m particularly interested in how things like VOIP systems like Vonage which is designed to connect to the traditional, hardline telephone terminal, and to a lesser degree, Skype, are transitioning what used to be a very geographically oriented communications and social medium into one that is geographically untethered.
One other presentation I particularly enjoyed was by
David Stark who presented some work that he and his colleague Verena Paravel have been doing on PowerPoint. The title of the talk was Click to add title: PowerPoint Demonstrations and the New Economy of Persuasion.
I found this really engaging, partly because I’m fascinated with the various practices that circulate around the PowerPoint grail. Stark, ironically enough, had an enormous PowerPoint deck â€” over 50 slides. But he only had 15 minutes to present. So..there’s that. Which in a self-reflective way is one of the typical PowerPoint gaffs â€” over presenting.
Stark circulated a few useful nuggets. One was the way [w:PowerPoint] was used during the presentation of designs for the “[w:Freedom Tower]” in New York City. He described how w:PowerPoint was used in one of the entries to transform the existing cavity into a renewed space by starting with satellite imagery and gradually filling it in as an illustration. The transformation made for a persuasive presentation.
Then he described [w:Colin Powell]’s use of PowerPoint to the [w:UN Security Council] when the Bush Administration was lobbying that sanctions and war were necessary against Iraq. The exciting nugget about that part of Stark’s presentation was the historical analog to [w:Adlai Stevenson]’s flip chart presentation to the UN Security Council during the [w:Cuban Missle Crisis]. What Stark showed was the same sort of visual argument as used in the Stevenson presentation â€” I mean, it’s a very compelling parallel, even down to the kinds of imagery used to persuade.
Why do I blog this? I wanted to capture a few notes from the 4S panels and provide a place holder for the presentation I gave. I also really enjoyed Stark’s presentation â€” it made me think of the time I was working at a crazy brand marketing consultancy called Sterling Group (now Sterling Brands) that was pretty well neurotic, incestuous and insane, and the neurosis and insanity was well-represented by the presentation group, which was a small fiefdom that held sway over all presentation preparation. Now, I must say, they made very pretty presentations, mostly using PowerPoint, and they’d print out and bind these “decks” so you’d have “leave-behinds” for your prospective client. But, boy â€” did these folks take their job seriously. Everyone had to jockey for their place in the agency’s “value chain”, which meant that the closer you were to making rain, the better. The closer, followed by the guy with the lead, followed by the design team, and so on. And the PowerPoint guys did their best to be close to the, well..closer. It all makes sense, of course, but the way they fabricated their ontological position within the organization was worthy of a close, ethnographic investigation into the practice of turning tin into gold.
And the whole practice of making meaning so as to make action is what this persuasion angle is about, I believe.
The New York Times writes another nugget on the increasingly knitted worlds of film (should I say, celluloid film?) and video game creative production.
As electronic games become a candidate (of many possibilities) for the future of visual story telling, drawing upon the various models of production becomes a hot topic. Oftentimes the two forms of entertainment production are put alongside each other.
Far more often than not, it is the economics. I’ve heard both that electronic games has an economic girth more than and less than film â€” I’m not sure what’s the case any more.
After economics, it ends up being operational issues, like how to go about production. After that, the topic is often discussions about electronic games as an extension of a film’s brand, meaning an after-market bolt-on to the imaginary world of a film. This approach seems, in my humble opinion, to be about as considered and thought-through as the after-market resizing or pan-and-scan post-production that makes a film suitable to television.
I’ll go out on a limb and say that failure is basically guaranteed by making an electronic game based upon a story that was meant to be experienced sitting in a darkened room without a controller in your hand and in a mode of reception that’s far away from the kind of engagement a good video game like Katamari Damacy provides.Why do I blog this? It was particularly interesting to note the tensions between video game manufacturing behemoth Electronic Arts seems to have difficulty when creative control clearly belongs in the camp of an auteur, like Peter Jackson. I can imagine the nervousness of EA execs thinking that they may become as useful as a film studio in the 1980s as creative and entrepreneurial directors similar in their capacity to Jackson are able to produce, distribute and market their own games independent of EA-style studios. I don’t know for sure, but I would guess that EA is more of a warehouse of smart, enthusiastic, malleable video game programmers, and far fewer visual story-telling creatives who grew up on video games.
This topic is also of interest as the department in which I presently teach and do research is situated within a school of cinema and television and focuses mainly on production. The department is also significantly funded by Electronic Arts which makes for a complicated ordering of priorities. Many students seem to enroll because they see it as an easy-in to a job at EA.
I’m almost afraid to enter a new design idiom into my tool chest, but this one came up during Aram Armstrong’s presentation during the Nabi Workshop. It’s probably old hat to many of you out there, and I have to say that I was somewhat hopped up on the Information Design and Experience Design stuff. (One of my mentors, Bob Jacobson, was in the center of this, having edited the canonical Information Design treatise.)
Almost two weeks ago I ordered a new PowerBook G4, plushed out, spinners, drop-top, lift kit and hydromatic transmission. (It was actually generously purchased by a research group I work closely with, so it belongs to them.
I think of it like a company leased car, I suppose. In any case, a wonderful gesture seeing as my PowerBook is on its last legs — second hard drive replacement in as many years, and I have to use velcro to keep the lid closed after the shoddy latch gave-way for a second time, and my department doesn’t budget for its researchers computer needs nor, errr..research. But that’s for another post.)
I found out a day or so after I placed the order that Apple was gearing up for one of its epic announcements of new products. Seeing as it was Apple, all was fairly hush-hush. I thought about canceling my order, but decided to stay the course. It hadn’t gone through yet, and I figured that even if it did, and the announcement was a spanking new replacement 15″ G4 PowerBook, I could change the order or, at worst, return it without even opening the box (which would’ve taken quite a bit of self-control.)
Instead, Apple announced the Video iPod and other goodies, but nothing in the way of PowerBooks. So I was safe.
Just yesterday, I received an email from Apple, which I’ll quote in part:
To Our Valued Apple Customer:
Apple is pleased to announce a new generation of the PowerBook G4!
Your PowerBook has not shipped yet, so we have upgraded your order to the new PowerBook at no additional charge.
Thank you for choosing Apple!
Apple Store Customer Support
I mean, like..that’s incredibly smart, dare I say..Service Design, and correct me if I’m getting the idiom wrong, but someone must’ve considered how best to serve the in-betweeners, and I was one of those in-betweeners once when I got my present PowerBook. I think the situation was that at the time they didn’t have a 12″ G4 PowerBook, so I got an iBook and then a short while later, they came out with the 12″ G4 PowerBook and I felt kind of jinxed. (I ended up selling the iBook to a friend and upgrading to the PowerBook.)
So, is this a designed service?
Why do I blog this? Designing, in the sense of purposefully crafting some thing (in the Latour sense of thing, to be precise) in order to create a particular kind of experience that registers on a social or individual level sounds like a fun creative and intellectual challenge. The kind of thing I would enjoy doing.
Stumbled across one of the most stunning augmented reality environments on a bustling market street in Seoul this evening. It's called Royal Grand Prix Derby Racing (On Air). Inside it's darkened, quiet and smoky room, are row and row of illuminated consoles quietly and occupied by contemplative men huddled over large displays chock-a-block with data, concentrating on the task at hand â€” handicapping. It's a fully immersive handicappers sports book! These guys are betting on an entirely virtual horse race. Up on the large, bright wall-to-wall display is a remarkably compelling computer generated experience of being at the track. The point-of-view is that of a TV camera capturing all the action, from paddock views and running commentary, to the horses being trotted up to the starting gate and, of course, the racing action.
I was slack-jawed. What a brilliant execution. When you're in the room, it's like being in a Vegas sports book or perhaps a more well-groomed O.T.B. parlor.
Evidently, according to my middling guide book betting on horse racing is gaining in popularity. There's a Seoul Equestrian Park and a Jeju Race Track. There are betting limits of between 100 – 1,000,000 Won â€” about 10 cents to 1,000 US dollars. Until the late 1990s strictly controlled gambling in the country was limited only to non-Koreans, except for those who worked in the casinos. Even still, tehre is only one casino that permits entrance to Koreans. Presently there are about 13 hotel-casinos in the country for the recreation of foreigners.
In the Milgrim and Kishino's canonical taxonomy of mixed reality displays, there is explicated a â€œ'virtuality continuum' which connects completely real environments to completely virtual ones.â€? Where would Royal Derby Racing (On Air) fit in such a continuum? It's more than a display; it's almost an â€œexperienceâ€? coupled with a reasonably well constructed â€œenvironmentâ€? before it's any particular sort of display technique. And if I decided it was more of an augmented reality, I wouldn't say such because it uses a display that overlays computer-generated material on the real world. It is a kind of overlay, but not the simple instrumental variety. More of an augmentation of what is possible to experience, rather than tossing some numbers and glyphs up on a pair of VR glasses.
Why do I blog this? Because it's a really compelling instance of immersive VR that actually â€œworksâ€?, meaning that it technical operates but also is, evidently, commercially viable. It sustains itself without NSF grants or arts grants. And it's occupied by people who aren't themselves occupied with technical minutiae, but with a desire to actually engage the experience as it was designed to be experienced. It's beyond the tendency of research-lab-VR-wonks to make stuff that's pure concept and is only cool so long as it's a little bit better than the previous thing but still beyond the legibility of an audience much wider than the seventeen researchers interested in spending many $100,000 on whacky tech.
Nicolas Nova posts a relevant musing on Instant Messaging:
Stowe Boyd sketched an interesting set of cardinal rules about IM uses:
The social aspects of real time life will swamp any specific technology’s impacts. I believe in tools, but effective application requires changes in behavior. For example, effective use of IM in groups means people must adopt the five cardinal rules of IM which I tend to agree with:
- Turn on your IM client, and leave it on. (The Turn It On rule).
- Change your IM state as your state changes. (The Coffee Break rule.)
- It is not impolite to ping people. (The Knock-Knock rule.)
- It is not impolite to ignore people. (The I’m Busy rule.)
- Try IM first. (The IM First rule.)
Moreover, a good paper about it is The Character, Functions, and Styles of Instant Messaging in the Workplace By Ellen Isaacs, Alan Walendowski, Steve Whittaker, Diane J. Schiano & Candace Kamm:
Why do I blog this? IM in its various trademarked forms (MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, and beyond..) is one of the prototype forms of the exciting "presence awareness" idiom of social formation-making, IP network enhanced practices. The idea that you can raise a flag as to your current state of activity is compelling, although I must admit that sometimes seeing a chum’s AOL status as "Busy, please don’t interrupt" or likewise borders on a bit obsessive. If you’re really busy and can’t be interrupted, don’t crow about it, just go be busy. On the other hand, of course, I understand that impulse to be simultaneously in and out of the social cloud.
Passing through Narita this afternoon on my way back from the Art Center Nabi Workshop on Urban Play and Locative Media, (scan the blog for a few notes from the 3 day workshop) I found a large sign in the transfer zone between international flights indicating that one was to remove any drinks (plastic bottles of water, iced tea, etc.) from luggage and insert it into a special drinks scanning machine. I looked for the machine but kind of didn’t feel like loitering. From the diagram it looked like one slotted the bottle into some sort of carrier and waited for a light to turn green or red.
Excuse the lack of image documentation on this one.
Why do I blog this? I’m interested in the ways that different sorts of technical instruments create new kinds of social formations, including new kinds of social behaviors. It’s not so much interesting that this machine makes people take bottles of water out of their bags, but more so the way that the objects we carry with us in a mobile context become differently semantic, or obtain different valences of meaning, power and potential. I guess the bottle could contain something dangerous or destructive. (That’s not even a question post-9/11; it’s a statement of fact. That little semantic wallywog is another shift in the power of mobile objects in which I am also interested.)
Had another one of those "the world is the size of a postage stamp" moments (maybe it's also a networked publics moment..) while returning to Los Angeles from Seoul via Tokyo on UA890 when I somewhat randomly decided to listen to the music channels that pipe through the armrests. I normally don't do that, mostly because I have my iPod or PSP or whatever to distract me from the painful petty annoyances of flying in steerage. The vocals and bluesy syncopation was familiar on channel 10, though, and within a few moments I knew it was some old secondary-school chums who make up Blues Traveler. New album, evidently. I get to see them far less often nowadays — they always seemed much more likely to pass through NYC than LA.
Why do I blog this? The multi-tentacled way in which cultural production is distributed, hived, re-integrated and distilled is remarkable. I’ve heard and seen Blues Traveler through out the culture network, from radio, to satellite TV while on a lightly habited Caribbean island, to Late Night TV, to backstage at venues ginormous and miniscule and, now, coming out of the armrest on a transpacific plane ride.
Baruch Gottlieb – Soundmarks
24 hours in Myung Dong
MD needs free public breathing and meeting space (after Forrest – NES project team)
* if no trees, then a fountain
* if not on street level then on rooftops
Instead of virtual forest, Cyplaza with Cywatching (after Cyworld)
Or contemporary Oral history time capsule (after Time Machine)
* another layer of social experience
* anonymous internality
* MP3 player -> radi omini FM
* shrine project (after ghost project and LOCA)
Western art interested in representation/ideas
Korean art interested in practices/how the world works and how to make it work/final products
Why? No market for ideas in Korea.